Wednesday, June 8, 2016

City of Curses: Maralda and Androids (Fiction)

#Crux, the City of Curses is a dark fantasy setting I've been working on for two years now- inspired by the Jacksonian Era America, Legend of Korra, Pathfinder the Roleplaying Game, Hellboy and more- full of dark intrigues, horror, magic and weirdness.

On the Nature of Androids. 2.

Tinkertown, if exists, would be a bonanza for escaped Android collectors.  I've tried to make some way about where it could be.  But I've never seen a bit of it.  

Androids, if they have such a secret community, aren't willing to share it.  Maybe the stories about them lacking the confidence has merit.
-Maralda Inculti, 1785

Tinkertown, Poorfellows.

Maralda slid down the ladder.  She'd learned the last time not to trust the rungs.  Androids never used the ladder.  They jumped down the thirty feet from the sewer grate to the town square of the clandestine village.

She ended the harrowing climb.  Tinkertown.

A familiar, mechanical voice greeted her.

"Looking for more android stories?"

An Android woman with her dark, curled hair greeted her.  Ribbons in hair kept the curls in a fashionable pattern.  In a light red dress, the android lacked the traditional cast iron manacles of her people.  Glowing blue runes covered her waxen face.  The features moved with the conjured, magical way all androids moved.  But she had seams, here and there.  Without the subtle reminders, androids could look like just another human.

"Flash?"  Maralda looked her up and down.  "That's a new dress."

The android looked down.  "Well, I had other plans today.  But seeing you again is always an interesting experience."

"I hope so."  Maralda clasped Flash's android hands, drawing her close.  Surprised, Flash mimicked the gesture.  Flash had a bit of age for an android.  Enough that Maralda knew she didn't have to explain everything in order to have a straightforward conversation.

"More stories?"  Flash asked.  "Or pictures?  I do hope you'd reconsider-"

"I am not doing nudes."  Maralda shivered.  She tried not to look revulsed.  "I know you don't mean anything by it, but..."

"-human stigmas about dress and whatnot."  Flash finished.  "There are some Androids here who spend their entire days and nights naked.  They find our need to mimic human culture... not as important as learning about ourselves.  I think it has merit, to bare it all at times."

"Even as a learning exercise, I don't feel like sharing an image of my body like that.  Most Tomasi would find it... Well, some Tomasi don't mind I guess."  Maralda paused.  "Nudity is subject avoided at some levels.  I don't think many humans are ready to question it yet."


"Everything changes."

Flash gave her a smile.  "One day, then.  I still haven't been able to have the chance to compare to a base human.  I do really want to see what differences there are

between androids and humans."

"Flash..."  Maralda paused.  "I'm here for some research.  Not photos.  Or stories."

"Oh.  What do you need to know?"

Flash led Maralda down a well-lit lane in Tinkertown.  Some of the streets were unlit.  Others, too bright for Maralda to be able to see clearly.  Maralda never thought of Tinkertown as a village of Androids.  It felt more like some sort of cloister.  Almost each Android seemed to engage in their own forms of research or experimentation.

Each acted like the others were their own siblings.  That was true in a sense.  But friendly siblings, the kind who are there when one needs them.

Maralda thought back to her sisters.  She hated being around them.  Lizzie always told the most embarrassing things from Maralda's childhood.  Stories that Maralda could never live down.  Maralda other closest sister, Bella, had always snapped back at her.  Maralda actually liked Bella, but the older Vampyre wanted nothing to do with her.

"You always win," Bella had said.  Maralda shook off the bad memory.

Flash continued to stare at Maralda.  Maralda frowned.

"Sorry, lost in thought.  Your people... they all seem familial to one another.  I noted it in my head."

"Ah."  Flash waited.  Patient as a tree, she almost seemed frozen.

"Why I'm here.  Right.  Flash, you're one of the oldest Androids around, aren't you?"

Flash sighed.  "I am... old as you put it."

Maralda looked back, pale.  "I didn't mean it as an insult, uh, I'm sorry-"

The android woman waved her hands.  Maralda was taken back by the conciliatory gesture.  It looked human.  Very human.

"No insult.  I believe you're supposed to act that way about age."

Flash stopped in front of a old sewer wall.  The mosaic of bricks were covered in hooks.  Cast iron collars hung from each hook.  Thirty or more collars dangled on the wall.  Maralda took them in.

"That's a human thing, I guess."

"I don't age."  Flash reminiced.  "But I feel older.  I don't have the wrinkles or gray hair of you humans.  Everyone decays, it seems.  Moments are... fleeting.  Even the Tinkerer can't last forever."

"Well, that happens to everyone."  Maralda looked at Flash.  The Android's eyes seemed to glow a different color as she studied the discarded android collars.

"Yes, that's how it goes it seems.  Androids and vampyres."

"Right."  Maralda looked down.

"Does this android have a number or a name?"

"Cleaver.  He calls himself Cleaver."

Flash counted collars hanging on the wall.

"7253."  Flash shook her head.  "Cleaver, now.  Errors always seem to happen to androids forged that end in fifty-three.  Obese.  Worked as a Farm drone.  Started eating things."

Maralda blinked.  "That... does sound like him.  Why did he start... eating?"

Androids didn't need to eat.  Or sleep.  Or drink.  Maralda hadn't seen an android do that before.  They never seemed interested in it.

"Errors.  Imperfections in the wax.  Tainted aetherfire.  Maybe the templating blood admixture wasn't pure human during the alchemical gestation."  Flash shrugged.  "Something wrong.  He had a fascination with his tongue when I first met him."

"So he came here?"

"No."  Flash clutched her arms tight to herself.  "He refused.  By that point, he'd started gaining weight.  Changing his form."

"Something he ate?"  Maralda asked, more to herself.  This was running a chill up her spine.

"Where did you run into him?"

"A pitball game, yesterday evening.  He...  He is a worshipper of the Singer of the Voice.  I have suspicions, and I don't want to... well, offend him too much.  He seemed like a rather unique android."

"Don't go looking for him."  Flash turned to Maralda.  The android woman gripped Maralda's hand tight.  "Some of my kind aren't worth saving, Maralda.  They're broken.  They should have never come off the line."

Maralda felt her hand start to go numb from Flash's grip.

"You're hurting me."  Maralda told her.  But Maralda's was more curious than her fear.  She had to ask.  "Why?"

Flash let go.  She looked away, guilt in her mechanical eyes.

"He eats things, Maralda."  Flash said.  "He eats them.  Each time, he tastes the flesh and it makes him worse.  It's like your kind, your family.  That hunger.  The kind that devours people."

"Not the metaphorical kind."  Maralda whispered.

Flash nodded.